Monthly Archives: July 2008

Swing on by: Friday


The farm gate will be open on Friday, from 3-6pm. Stop on by! I’m hoping to see some of the folks from the conference and make some new friends, and see some old pals.

The farm is at 28th street and MLK in Oakland. Look for the bright mural on the abandoned building–the farm is behind the green fence on the corner. I’ll be weeding in the garden.

Freaky vegetables

What do you do if someone invites you to Mondavi’s Taste3 conference? You go.

There’s the food. The wine. The big ol’ schwag bag. There’s a mulberry tree at Copia that, right now, is raining down dark juicy berries. No one seems to be picking them! There’s a great thrift store in Napa. But even better than the fine wine, the lobster dinner at Mumm where everyone got their nice clothes dirty with butter and lobster drippings; the complimentary coffee, tea, chocolate and shoes–there were some of the most eloquent, poetic, funny, slightly mad people who really care about what they’re doing. Dan Barber gave a talk about why he won’t use foie gras anymore (not for the usual reasons). A photographer named Laura Letinsky, who takes haunting photos of…leftovers, gave a presentation that got my slow-moving brain thumping. Jennifer 8 Lee confirmed my love of Chinese food as the all-American food. It was great. And then I returned hom, back to the vegetables in my garden.

Finally, the cabbage, which has been so slow growing, are starting to form heads. The first to be ready is this Melissa. Crinkly. Somewhat addled with slugs and a few earwigs. Delicious when grated with apples from the tree (the Anna apples are now ready), tossed with rice wine vinegar and walnuts.

The zucchini is out of control, as usual, but early this year on account of the pig manure. This is the vine of the Ronde de Nice zuchini, a round zucchini that volunteered out of the porcine poo
pile. I’ve harvested about a thousand of these small guys with their blossoms still attached. This vine looked weird, though. Thicker. There were flower buds coming off the vine. Not normal. I followed it to its trailing end. My heart stopped. It became a club footed monster. The vine thickened to almost 6 inches thick, like some crawling prickly pear cactus. And at this monstrous terminus was an almost vaginal cluster of flowers and fruit all riddled together.

I gasped. I have never seen this before. There were *so* many fruit in one space. A gold mine of zucchini. Was it the pig shit? Is it some mutation caused by extra fertile soil? Something deeply wrong with my eco-system? I don’t know. I harvested a few of the zucs for dinner, and when I carried them into the house, I couldn’t help think that the zucchini plant reminded me a bit of Taste3–a many headed vine, a delectable banquet, a marvelous freak show that makes for some fond summer memories.

Scattered acres

Just flew in from Seattle yesterday. I abandoned the farm to spend six days with my family up north. It was my mom’s un-65th birthday and un-retirement party (her real birthday is june 15; she’s retiring at 66). My sister and I threw her a Bastille day party featuring Sally Jackson cheeses, Salumi salami, bbq-ed oysters, and grilled Toulouse-style sausages. Also, there was a Cajun band. Riana made some yummy quiche with morels and a mind-blowing sour cherry dessert.

But the farm, right, how can I leave that for almost a week? In the end, it all worked out. My friend N came by every day and fed the goats and rabbits and chickens, I left Orla out with Bebe to keep her milked out, and I deeply watered the garden the night before I left.

After six days of absence, I thought upon my return, the goats would come running, the rabbits would clap their hairy paws together, the chickens would cuddle up. Actually, they barely noticed me when I walked through the gate. The only critter on the farm that’s ecstatic I’m back is Kousin the cat, who slept at my side all night.

Having a break made me realize how much work GhostTown Farm actually is. So many animals to care for, weeds to pull, vegetables to water, turds to clean up. But these chores, this care-taking is what gets me up in the morning, sets the rhythm for my day, makes me feel necessary and useful. It’s also nice to realize that I can leave for a few days and it’s not a disaster.

While in Seattle I picked up a copy of Common Grounds magazine, which has a very good article about the urban farming movement. The writer interviewed me, too, but the best idea came from an urban farmer in Chicago named Nance Klehm who described her “farm” as a scattered acre–a combo of rooftop gardens, a backyard, and other people’s backyards. I like this concept.

Taken to the next level, if you add up all the land devoted to urban homesteads, hobby farms like mine, community gardens, and backyard chicken runs, finally add up to many acres. When I say that I’m an urban “farmer”, I’m depending on other urban farmers, too. That its only with them that our backyards and squatted gardens add up to something significant. Scattered, but not insignificant.